Named for writer and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, this city is an impressive state capital with many interesting institutions. Raleigh is great place to spend a day or two even if you are in town with business, visiting some of the museums and galleries. The city is also a top destination for visual and performing arts. In the nearby Historic Oakwood neighborhood, visitors can admire beautifully restored Victorian-style homes built between 1870 and 1912.
Galleries at the North Carolina Museum of Art showcase art from the Renaissance, ancient Greece and Rome, and America in the 18th to 20th centuries. Also on display are international pieces, ranging from Egyptian to pre-Columbian art. Be sure to check the museum’s calendar to find out dates of upcoming temporary exhibits and events.
Conveniently located downtown, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is one of the largest natural science museums in the southeastern United States. Exhibits, labs, and interactive areas are spread over three floors and nine different halls. A visit to the museum can be combined with tours of the neighboring capital buildings. One of the museum’s most notable features is Willo, the world’s only dinosaur with a fossilized heart.
Detailing the history of the state, the North Carolina Museum of History covers a variety of topics including the Civil War, Native America, and women’s rights. See exhibits about the region’s first inhabitants and events in the 20th century. In addition, the museum is home to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
Among the many things to do in the beautiful 66 acres of Pullen Park, visitors can take fun rides on the Gustave A Dentzel Carousel and pose for pictures with the “Andy and Opie” statue, inspired by The Andy Griffith Show. Families appreciate the miniature train, pedal boats, aquatic center, and playground. Other facilities include a café, tennis courts, and sports fields. First opened in 1887, Pullen Park was the first public park in North Carolina.
Mordecai Historic Park preserves the birthplace of Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the United States. The setting also protects extraordinary treasures such as Mordecai House, the oldest residence in Raleigh. The property is representative of the many plantations that used to dominate the local area, and visitors enjoy a glimpse of life in early Raleigh as they explore.
The North Carolina State Capitol Building is considered one of the best-preserved examples of Greek revival architecture in the United States. Completed in 1840, the building is one of Raleigh’s best-loved landmarks. Up until 1888, the National Historic Landmark housed all of North Carolina’s State Government. Today, the Governor and the Governor’s staff conduct business on the first floor. This sightseeing stop is also located on the Raleigh’s historic Trolley Tour.
Easily accessible from Interstate 40 or US 70, William B Umstead State Park is a quick trip for anyone wanting to trade the cityscape for a natural setting. Park visitors can hike, bike, or horseback ride along miles of trails in this 5,579-acre escape. With a number of lakes, anglers can just toss a line, sit back, and wait for the fish to bite.
The North Carolina Symphony travels throughout the state, but usually gives monthly performances in and around the Raleigh area. Founded in 1932, the symphony has also performed at such prominent locales as Carnegie Hall in New York, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and Orchestra Hall in Chicago.
Created in 1997, the Carolina Ballet is one of America’s premier arts organizations. The company has not only staged world premiere ballets, but has also traveled internationally to China and Hungary. Founding Artistic Director and CEO Robert Weiss still leads the company, which performs throughout the year.
Where to Stay in Raleigh for Sightseeing
Raleigh’s main attractions, including the State Capitol, Historic Oakwood, and a majority of the museums, are located downtown. For first-time visitors or business travelers this is the best place to stay. Luxury and mid-range hotels are generally found near the convention center, and the prices drop as you head out towards Interstate 440. Sports fans may want to stay to the west by PNC Arena, near North Carolina State Museum.
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